Saturday, May 30, 2015

50 Shades Of Grey ... Farm Style.

A Lovely View
I know it sounds a little ominous, but don't panic. Steve has not been naughty. You'll laugh when you see the photos. Steve got the first chicken and turkey tractors finished today while I was planting and getting the running around all done. After he was done I guess he looked at it and thought 'Hmm, that'd make a good work bench' so he built a second one above the first for use by the chickens. I couldn't resist taking photos. Maybe I just get a kick of seeing my husband behind bars. 

It's been a very productive day! Even Jordan got in a full days work despite being in a play at school and taking half the afternoon off for the final show. It was awesome.

We got some herbs in, half a dozen roses and a rhododendron are planted, 800 feet of potatoes, a hundred pumpkins plus we transplanted out the 4 giant pumpkins from the greenhouse. Mateo our wwoofer and the sister missionaries all he lped with the first rows of market crops in the green garden, the girls helped me plant chives and Meghan cut the grass. So it's slowly beginning to look like a house with a yard and garden instead of a trailer park after a tornado. I even cheated and ordered pizza for supper because I still don't have an oven and the time saved gives me more time to get the turkeys moved to their new home before it gets dark.

Caged Husband
Ok, my drink break is over. Time to get back to work. I think I've absorbed as much water as I'm going to for now.

(10pm Update)

W ell it's too dark to work so I'm inside now avoiding the bugs. All the animals are tucked away except the ducks who are out hunting for their new crunchy June bug treats. The wind has picked up so I popped out to give all my plants one last watering while the bugs were relatively light. I sprayed myself first and still got a few bites despite the wind. 

The turkeys are settled into their tractor (that's the name for a movable poultry pen) and are all roosting up on their perch. They look so cute! The chicks have moved from the dining room to the greenhouse where the turkeys used to live. We moved the feeders that they're used to out there and I'm trying to teach them how to drink out of the watering nipples. If they get that figured out it'll be lovely because I can set up a gravity fed watering system for them when they're ready to move outside in a few weeks. It's hard to believe that just a few weeks back we were worried about the turkeys getting too cold on those frosty nights where it dropped below freezing. Now the problem is the heat. The greenhouse topped out today at over 51 degrees Celsius, that's 124 Fahrenheit. Yikes! And that was with the main door top open. I quickly opened the back door and vented the whole place. The tomatoes are all ok and we'd moved the roses out to the garden at that point so the real worry was the turkeys. They were totally fine and had plenty of water while they lay in the shade. It took them a few minutes to adjust to going from their greenhouse box to the great outdoors and their new grassy run, but they have settled in and are having a very good time now. I was thinking I'd put a solar light in there to attract bugs for them to play with in the evenings. Turkeys love bugs.

It's an inside job

If the weather is wet tomorrow I'm going to build a display rack and pot up more tomatoes. I'm taking them over to the Co-Op Country Store in Middleton for sale so feel free to buy some :)  The basil should also be okay to get into the garden and some into pots. The oregano in the greenhouse isn't doing very well though so I'm going to make a nursery bed in the garden next week and plant it in a nice sandy spot. The weather is supposed to be gusty and wet tomorrow so I'm glad it'll water in my new veggies and give me a break from digging. Maybe I'll even sneak my radio and bench out to the greenhouse and commune with nature for a couple of hours after church. That's the thing about the weather, it dictates so much of what we do here at the farm and so we just have to always plan for a backup activity if the weather turns inclement.

Well, I'm off to shower and scrub off the layers of sunscreen and repellent. I have a lovely tan but I'm pretty sure it'll wash off too. Then I plan to collapse into bed and stay there. Have a lovely day guys. I probably won't have time to post tomorrow but if I can, I'll get some photos of the gardens as our 'before' shots.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Greens Garden

Apple Blossoms beside the road.
Cherry at the Dep't of Transportation
You may be wondering what a 'greens' garden is. Well simply put, it's the new garden we've got ready for planting tomorrow. First it housed pigs and they dug out all the turf and roots. Then the chickens followed adding their manure for a year and scratching out every bug, beetle larvae and worm they could find (don't worry we have plenty of earthworms). Now it's been lightly tilled to incorporate the winters manure from the hen house and it's ready for planting. I tested the soil and it's got quite a lot of nitrogen as you'd expect so to use some of that up and balance out the soil fertility I'm going to be planting lots of quick growing leafy greens there. Lettuce and mesclun mixes, basil, beets for greens and of course what garden would be complete without the quintessential English runner bean hedge. The fence went around today and should all be anchored and ready to repel boarders (the hens) by noon tomorrow. By tomorrow afternoon the whole thing should be planted and it's on to the next garden. I've also got to get the front flower garden planted and ready for our late summer garden parties. I guess it depends on how it goes getting the beds all started. A couple of years and the roses and other perennials should be nicely established and giving us a lovely garden to sit in throughout the nice weather.

The valley smells wonderful at the moment. Really, all you have to do is step outside and inhale deeply, it's delicious! All the apple trees and orchards are in bloom and the lilacs and dandelions look magnificent. I love dandelions. They're so cheerful looking and it's almost like they're saying I'm Here, Come Eat Me! If you really hate them in your lawn then I think you should just mow them. But of course I'm biased. I keep bees and dandelions are an important source of pollen.The hay meadows are crowned with dandelions all over the valley at the moment. I stopped and took this picture out near Hwy 221 on Wednesday I think it was. Doesn't it look lovely?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Popcorn Popping on the Apple Trees

'I looked out my window and what did I see? Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.'  Those are the opening lines to a childrens song we sing at church fairly often. But it's true that I've been watching the apple trees here at the farm and they're all suddenly opening. The cool morning air is filled with the delicious scent and the trees really do look like they're covered in pale pink popcorn. Our new bees should be here any day and they're going to love the boost of nectar and pollen I'm sure. We had a rather wet day yesterday so now the dandelions will be out blooming in full force, a pain to gardeners who hate them but of course we keep bees so we love them :)

Today is going to be warm so we'll be out int he greenhouse and in the garden while it's still cool and get some more re-potting done and also see about getting some main crops into the ground. Peas, potatoes and salad greens along with radishes are the order of the day. Plus of course the prerequisite bug repellent. Oh my goodness the black fly are horrible! Everyone is saying it's the worst year they can remember. I think maybe it's just because the flies all hatched at once instead of being spread out over the past few weeks. Either way I can't wait for their season to be over and for the mozzies which are much easier to repel.

The next 3 weeks will see the majority of our crops started. Getting everything planted takes time but then the daily maintenance is what you really have to keep up on. Weeding, hoeing, hilling up potatoes. If you don't do those then your crops have a harder time because they're competing with them for moisture and nutrients. So as important as planting is, keeping it up is just as important.

I still haven't had tome to get my planting plan all done but I'm closer. It'll be finished today. Hopefully along with the turkey tractor and the arbour int he garden. I really need some of the perennials out of the greenhouse and into the garden right now. Tomatoes still need the warmth so they're fine to stay. The weather is supposed to be hot today, pushing 30. I'm gonna die! Then tomorrow is wet and stormy again. It's not bad weather to get crops in the ground.

Time to get up and at 'em!

Monday, May 25, 2015

And Something Went BUMP In The Night

Sitting here this evening I heard the bugs flitting outside the window against the screen and I thought about the moths which I don't like and how grateful I am for window screens. When all of a sudden something much heavier bounced off the screen with a definite 'twang!' Say it isn't so! The June bugs are back! GROAN

June bugs are not my friend. And I'll let you in on a secret. I have an irrational fear of flying insects. I'm okay with butterflies but moths just do me in. I know I know, they can't hurt me. I KNOW that, inside my head. But when they're being all floppy and dive bombing my face I freak out. I gradually have lessened my fear as I've progressed on this Earth, 40 years of living in moth country. And then along came the ultimate nemesis ... the June Bug or June Beetle as it's also known.

These rather large members of the scarab beetle family can fly but are exceedingly clumsy and are attracted to light so you'll hear them hit the wall, screen and light fixtures on the outside of you house with a wet sounding thwack every evening for several weeks. The worst part of June bugs is that they have lumpy legs that act sort of like velcro and so if they land on your clothing or heaven forbid, in your hair, they're very difficult to get out again. It's not like a quick swipe and they just fly off. Oh no! They stick on so you have to actually touch them and peel them out of your hair like a giant burr. <>  Just thinking about is giving me a serious case of the creeps.

There's not a lot you can really do but wait for June bug season to end in a few weeks. In the meantime you can bait them by leaving a light source on outside away from doors and windows, and keep the curtains closed so there's less light to be attracted to. I remember last year being so grossed out because there must have been close to a hundred June bugs all over the screen door one evening that I actually found a can of Raid and sprayed them all. It seemed like a great idea...until I tried to leave the house the following morning and had to crunch and squish my way across all their little beetle bodies.

I can hear the ducks making some of their hunting noises so I'm wondering if despite it being 10:30 at night, if they're out sloshing down some bugs for a night cap. If they are then they're suddenly my new best friends. I really don't like June bugs. I've been out fishing as the sun set and heard them coming across the lake towards me. Honestly the sound is like a drone coming to terrify me so I always pack up my rods and gear and go home.

Probably my nastiest experience with a June bug was in Chris' Grade 11 year at West Kings High School. I was driving the vehicle along Glebe Rd near Greenwood and had the music turned up and the windows open enjoying the evening air. I think I was driving him to one of the last rugby games of the season. When all of a sudden a nice fat juicy beetle hit the vertical window frame beside the windshield and my open window and exploded into a mass of green beetle juice and bright pink guts. This concoction then splattered one whole side of my face and glasses. Being chivalrous as he is, Christopher did hand me a kleenex after he stopped clutching his sides with laughter. How kind of him. So that is my ultimate horror story of June bugs so far. Needless to say, it did nothing to lessen my dread of these cursed beetles. YUCK!!

Planting Begins Outside - Potatoes

I'm not quite finished my planting plan yet but it should be all finished today. Which is good because we're starting with our cool season crops. The weather is going to be very warm today, 26 C or about 80 F. And while that may not seem very warm to most of you, none of us have yet adjusted to the heat. Remember, it was only recently that I was complaining to you about all the snow :)

Potatoes are going in maybe today too and that'll be great because it's supposed to be a bit of a wet week, but not cold. The cooler weather means if I take the risk of planting green beans that there's a good likelihood they won't sprout if the soil is cool and wet but sometimes it's worth the risk, and sometimes there are ways around problems like this. I'm sure you've seen farmers planting things in rows that are little ridges in the soil. Well the reason we do that is so that the seeds are slightly raised inside the soil. The raised soil warms up faster and doesn't hold as much water so while the seeds are getting going in the wet Spring weather they have a much better chance of sprouting and not rotting in the ground. So for the home gardener it's also possible to get a week or two jump on the weather by copying what the farmers do and planting seeds that like warmer soil in ridges. These would include beans and corn. Corn is particularly susceptible to soil temperature. Too cool and it won't sprout at all.

Another major consideration is frost dates. It may be 26 C this afternoon but if you've read my blog for a while you'll know that the temperatures can fluctuate wildly in Canada and we could easily get frost next week. We plant and schedule with this in mind. If I get my potatoes started in the ground, they won't actually be sending little green shoots out of the ground for another week or 10 days. They stay protected under the earth while they send out roots and get going. One other way that I use to get a little jump on my planting out of doors is to use a mulch. A mulch is basically any covering over the plant and/or soil. Most common mulches are straw, hay, compost, wood chips etc. These are all good soil builders as they'll break down into the soil over time and add to the humus level which increases available nutrients and water holding capacity, especially in our sandy soil.

Regardless of all the best laid plans, it all comes down to the weather and the seeds. We have to get them together at some point. So once Jordan is home from school we'll get planting potatoes and see if we can get a few hundred feet of rows in before supper time. In 2 weeks I'll side dress with compost and manure to make sure the growing plants are getting enough of what they need to stay healthy. We do practice hilling so when the tops of the plant reach 12 inches tall I'll pile soil up around them and mulch them with straw to keep the soil underneath more moist, to protect the developing tubers from teh sun and to help stop the  We're going to plant, Emarosa, Green Mountain, Russet (netted gem) and some Purple Chief. That should give us some nice market potatoes as well as storage ones. I'll post later and let you know how it went, unless the black fly carry me off or suck me dry.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Greenhouse is Overrun

When you first start seeds it's common to use flats with 72 or 90 cells. Cells are each little pot that's molded in the plastic. I use 72's because they give just a little more space for root development before I transplant to 4 inch pots. As you can imagine, 10 trays of 72 cells doesn't take up much space, perhaps 12x18 inches each. But once you transplant to 4 inch pots you suddenly have only 18 pots taking up the same space, and when you transplant to a gallon pot well you can only fit 2. My shelf is currently completely covered in flats and it's time to transplant. So herein lies my dilemma. What on earth to do with all these plants!?!

Running out of space to work. May 2015
Currently I have a dozen or so Amish Paste tomatoes ready to go into 1 gallon pots, I've got maybe 48 beefsteak tomatoes ready for larger pots or the garden, lettuce coming out the wazoo so I've been making salad and I started using it as an understorey in the gallon tomato pots (it'll shade the soil and then you can pick it when the tomato needs more room),  and I have a couple hundred tomato seedlings that are now ready for their 4 inch pots which is the bulk of my space problem. I do have some plastic stackable shelving in the bunk room off the barn so I'll probably have to layer those o the shelf to provide a little more room for the next couple of weeks until we're ready to begin selling our lovely little tomatoes. And thank goodness I didn't start them all at once or I'd really be pooched. I've got other tomatoes that won't need potting up for a couple more weeks. I know you can buy them in the stores right now but really the weather is still too cold for them so it's better to wait for warmer nighttime temperatures.

Another part of the problem is our hi-jumpin' lambs. Steve spent a good portion of the weekend fixing up all the fencing and they're still getting out. Bright orange electric wire may be the way to go. Once I know I can keep the animals out of my garden, I can put in my roses, herbs, sweet potatoes, cucumbers and greenhouse tomatoes and that will give me a lot more space. And if the turkeys move out, well then I'll be able to walk around again! lol  I'm thinking of actually just planting some sweet potato vines and tomatoes directly on top of the turkey poop once the little critters have moved out. The shavings and poop will compost and provide nitrogen, but the composting process does take nitrogen out of the soil initially so I'd need a good buffer of soil and small plants who won't need the nitrogen for several weeks. It's a good use of the space too. We'll see, I may yet put meat chicks in there too. Oh one thing to note. If you ever do this remember that chicks and chickens can give a nasty disease to turkeys (it's called Blackhead and you can guess why) so our rule is always that turkeys get the clean space first, and chicks follow. Never the other way round.  Yes, sometimes we'll put a chick or two in with day old turkeys to teach them how to eat, and yes, our older turkeys do live with some hens and a roo but they're older and free ranging anyways. I'll keep my turkey poults separate in their own tractor if I can. I have hens and turkeys sitting on eggs as we speak, let's see if they manage to hatch anything this year. Last year was a bit of a bust thanks to our gay turkey problem, lol.

It's an overcast morning, cool and damp so it's actually perfect weather to be in the greenhouse. It's still warmer than outside plus it's dry and not overly hot yet. Being in there some days at 120 f. is just plain awful so I try and work in the early mornings and evenings. I am not a hot weather person. 70's is my idea of perfect weather, afterall I come from a wet and cool island (Britain). One of my grandfathers serves in the desert in North Africa during WWII and told me some amazing stories about the weather, people and insect life there.

Ok, back to the greenhouse I go now that I've had a break for a nice cup of rooibos chai tea and a piece of toast. I rubbed up against the lemongrass in my greenhouse and the smell was making me hungry.  I figure I can get some more potting done and then if the weather has warmed and dried a bit I'll hang out some washing on the line and get the kitchen ship shape again. We had a great weekend visiting a new friend (Hi Michelle!) and just generally carrying on as well as working here at the farm. It's Wednesday now so I only have today and tomorrow to get things done before the kids are home for yet another long weekend. I think it's the schools way of breaking us in gently for summer when we'll have them home all the time.'s raining again. Maybe I'll start with the kitchen :)


Just a quick break from the usual farm-ish type stuff to say Hi to everyone and let you know that I appreciate the comments. I just went through and realized that I had more than a dozen to moderate. Sorry for the sometimes long delays. I do love hearing from all of you. I hope Spring has been kind to you so far. The chickens, turkeys, sheep and I are are eagerly awaiting a break in today's rather wet weather for some much anticipated planting. If not, I'll go re-pot tomatoes ready for sale in the greenhouse.

Love from Nova Scotia

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Long Weekend Report

May long weekend is always a mixed bag as far as weather goes, and this weekend was a good example. Saturday and Monday were beautiful, warm and sunny. Sunday rained but that's okay because if anyone was planting it got a good watering. We had a fantastic weekend. Got to hang out with a new friend of ours and also got some projects done around the farm. Not as many as I'd like but still, it's looking a lot tidier. Steve spent all day Monday doing fencing only to have them jump the fence into the garden. So today I'll have to go out and figure where they're shorting the electric fence and getting over. Next week is planting time so I need to figure it out quickly.The chickens usually free range but if we want to get seedlings out of the ground we need to contain them so I'm tasked with building new pens and tractors for them. I'm going to sort out the various flocks and give them their own summer palaces. The chores are never ending so I should get up and get going. Though I'd prefer to stay in bed. I'll take some pics of the place for you to see what's going on with us and then I've got to set up the cabin for our first wwoofer who is arriving earlier than expected. My list of chores is massive though so extra help is always good. I have willows, poplar and 48 rugosa roses to plant along the side of the property. And once the garden is tilled and animals contained we've got a heck of a lot of planting to do. Time to get up. Ooo I'm suddenly craving Ribena!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Feels like Summer ... But it's not

I notice that with the long weekend here people are eager to be getting out and planting in their gardens. The garden centres are open at every store and flowers and veggies are all out on the racks. With the temperatures in the high teens every afternoon it's easy to feel like the long Winter is finally over and to get out there, but the reality is that if you're awake with me right now at 5am you'll see that we've a really heavy frost for the second day in a row. It might be 4 degrees in the Valley and on the shore, but here it's hovering right around freezing. Brrr! It's warm in the house, my lovely little thermometer says it's 15 degrees indoors and 9.6 in the greenhouse. Of course that's on the floor of the turkey pen inside the greenhouse. It's not terribly warm but it's 10 degrees warmer than outside! Here's the view at 5am this morning from my south facing bedroom window into the lean-to greenhouse. You can see the plants up on the shelf and the red glow from the turkeys heat lamp. The shelf provides some shading from the direct heat of the sun during the day so the turkeys don't get too hot and the heat from them keeps the plants happy at night. You can't see it but there are lots of tomato seedlings on the left hand side of the shelf just out of the frame and a shelf set against the house and under the window with some tubs on and I use it for storing tools and turkey feed.
Inside the Humblebee Farm Greenhouse at 5am May 15th

When I got home yesterday from meeting a friend I rinsed out the duck swamp aka. the recycled sand box, and re-filled it with fresh water. The ducks will go for a swim sometimes and it muddies the water terribly. I can't wait to get them a pond of their very own.  Here's a pic of the ducks. Mojo is looking to see if it's filled up yet.

Mojo: "Is it filled up yet mum?"
Well I've been awake since 3am and now it's a little after 6am and I'm finally feeling sleepy. The sun is coming up over the hill behind me because I can see the golden glow on the trees opposite. The kids are stirring, maybe I can get an hour of sleep before I have to get up and drive my friend to her ultrasound appointment. Wish me luck!

I've got lots of planting and potting to do today, I'll try and take some pics. But there's still so much clean-up after this past Winter. It seems never ending.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Growing in the Greenhouse

Happy Mothers Day to you all! Here's what I got for gifts: a back massage, breakfast in bed, an arbour started (construction is ongoing) and a trench full of power and water. No, I'm not kidding about the trench. It's my usual practical gift from Steve. We're running the water and power underground from the house to the cabin we've got because that's what the building inspector would prefer and because it's less annoying then a line and cable overhead above the garden. Now I don't have to watch out every time I'm swinging a tall pole in there for the beans. I just have to finish the ceiling, repair the roof and put in a smoke alarm and the cabin is ready for wwoofers again this year. I also want to get some shelves out there but for now it'll be fine. We just have a single guy coming so it's not a big deal to get the bunk beds together as the queen size bed is there. 

In the greenhouse the baby turkeys are growing nicely. We haven't lost any I don't think, though trying to count them when they're running all over the place can be decidedly tricky. But it works well to have them under the shelf with the plants. They get a warmer and safer environment while they're growing up a bit, and their heat lamp provides a little extra warmth at night to the plants on the shelf above. Part of Permaculture is having things compliment and work together, in fact many different trends in gardening advocate symbiosis and it's a good and practical way of doing anything. It's essentially taking the waste from one thing and using it to benefit something else or being the most economical or efficient. Some gardening gurus almost preach it like it's a new concept but of course, like everything else that works well, it's ancient wisdom. Just as the Aztecs planted corn, beans and squash together in their 3 sisters method, and companion planting helped lessen pests while promoting growth, I recommend that you take the time to see if there's a way of increasing the efficiency in your garden. Then it becomes wisdom that is both personal to your garden and practical.

I'm trying to decide the best place to plant some blackberry bushes I picked up the other evening. I need to decide and get them planted today. On our way home from buing them the sunset was quite pretty so Meghan and I took a few pictures. The valley never looks as good in a photograph as it does in real life though. Of all my photos I like this one the best, it's Me taking a photo of Meghan taking a photo of the sunset while driving past our neighbours cows. Love the reflection in the mirror also :)

Reflections of a Spring Evening near Greenwood, NS

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


It's hard to believe that just 6 hours ago I was outside admiring the cosmos and how bright the moon was. This idyllic moment of time seems short lived as I woke up at dawn to a horrid stench. Yes, the dog has had her first encounter with a skunk. And it must have happened somewhere near the wwoofers cabin because the whole garden and back of the house stinks to high heaven. Maybe it was trying to break into the greenhouse again.

The dog for her part seems unscathed, just wet. I assume she went zipping over into the swamp for a good roll around before trotting off to visit the neighbours. Obviously we had to get her back which she wasn't impressed about but my goodness the whole yard now stinks. I'm going to have to re-wash all the laundry out on the line, wash down the cabin and of course the dog needs a good scrub too. I think the best thing to do is get to her ASAP and give her a good lather in de-stinking shampoo. Obviously she's tied up outside right now while I wait for the store to open and get the proper amount of peroxide. But I may mix up a quarter of a batch to use while we wait.


Not how I planned my morning to go.

In case this ever happens to you, this is the recipe for anti-stink shampoo. It breaks down the oils and sulphur compounds but you'll have to wear gloves and old clothes while using it and avoid getting in the dogs eyes. You'll need to lather, wait a few mins, rinse, repeat a few times so outdoors is recommended. And don't worry if your dogs coat gets a little lighter in colour, it's temporary.

What You Need:
  • 1 quart (32 fl oz, nearly 1 liter) Hydrogen Peroxide 3% (U.S.P)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) NOT baking powder or washing powder
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid soap (any dish or hand soap will work)
  • 1 quart lukewarm water (only needed for very large dogs)
  • A clean plastic bucket, bowl or other mixing container (do not cover)
  • Clean plastic utensils for mixing
  • Protective eye ointment or mineral oil (for your dog's eyes)
  • Latex or rubber gloves
  • A protective apron and eye goggles if possible
  • Plenty of towels if you're doing this indoors

**UPDATE**  The dog is washed down and tied up to a tree drying. In a couple of hours we'll shampoo her a couple more times and leave her outside a bit longer. It's a nice sunny, warm and breezy day. Perfect for drying a black dog.